Last week Beth and I drove to Elgin to witness our friends' reaffirmation of their marriage vows. These friends had had some marital problems that will most likely in the end be the saving of their marriage.
About a year ago, the husband confessed that he had a sex addiction. He decided to deal with the issue the right way, or a least a right way. He sought and found healing by going to a church-led group similar to SAA. And he went through a 9 month program called Redeemed Lives, started by a man (Mario Bergner) who came out of a homosexual lifestyle. He lives on the east coast now, but has ministry that deals with healing in sexual brokenness. The program incorporates Scripture, small groups, healing prayer, solid psychological teaching (family origins, maladaptive tendencies, etc.) He also spoke with a friend about his addiction and the process of reconciling his marriage every day for about two months. The couple separated for several months, too. The last year has been full of sadness and loneliness; a long painful journey for them both. It's also been full of relying upon God and their community of believers for strength and wisdom.
That night we who were witnesses celebrated their courage to not hide their problems or hide from them. It was a deeply joyous occasion devoid of pretenses. No one there thought the couple had it all together. Personally, the all-too-familiar pull to put on a public image other than my real self simply stopped its pulling. Their vulnerability made us all more vulnerable; more real; more human.
I'm sharing this story as a model of Christian discipleship. We should expect that following Jesus will include one stretching, faith-building and humbling step after another. By facing their problems head-on and relying upon the help of Christ and the church, our friends have put themselves on the journey of reconciliation and marital health.
The night of reconciliation stood in opposition to the the powerful notion that Christianity involves an arrival; a being set; having our house in order. Our faith does involve working towards holiness, but my experience tells me that when we think we've arrived we haven't. Working towards holiness is always an undressing, and there is no Christianity without that undressing. My prayer for our friends is that they don't understand this last year as an unseemly anomaly in their Cristian journeys or in their marriage, but as the pattern to be expected until death do them part.